So wild, I literally just finished writing about the Agfa™ Sensor series (below) and look what arrived in todays mail from Japan. Also, I know I stated that I wouldn’t be covering any MJU’s or T4’s because I’ve had so many of them throughout the years but it just so happened that I found an MJU II for super cheap so I figured, why not buy it. I’m still not sure if I’m going to keep it or not.
I’ve been obsessed with the Agfa™ Optima Sensor series 35mm cameras since I stumbled upon them online last month. If you’re an industrial design buff like me you, you’ll appreciate all of the mindful design elements that went into the final production of these compact shooters. For starters you, your eye gets directly drawn to the big red shutter button and huge viewfinder. Its like looking out of a window of your dream home into your dreamworld. You also can’t help but to notice the uncanny resemblance of old Braun™ designs by none other than the infamous, Dieter Rams. The cameras are lightweight and jam packed with German engineered technology that was extremely advanced for the 1980’s era but still function seamlessly in todays photographic exploration. As soon as my eyes scanned over the images of the Agfa™ Optima Sensor online, it was lust at first sight.
As of today, I officially have three of the series that I had to have shipped from different corners of the world. Two Optima Flashes and one Optima Sensor (same as the 535) and have one more on the way from Japan. The funnest part about collecting these cameras is the fact that you have to search and source them from all over the world as there’s not too many people who want to let go of the ones that have survived over the years. If anyone out there reading this has one for sale, please let me know :)
Where do I begin? Well, for starters I purchased this Yashica™ Auto Focus Motor II on eBay for $18 from a buyer who didn’t indicate if it worked or not. I just figured it looked cool and would make for a nice paper-weight on my desk but a part of me was also hoping that this old girl still had some air in her lungs. Made in the early 80’s and was way ahead of its time by being the first motorized compact on the market, I prepared myself for a piece of workspace decor. Upon its arrival I instantly popped in two fresh AA batteries to which there was no pulse. I figured it was hopeless to try to resurrect it since I’m not a camera technician but I did remember a guy at a flea market once telling me to always check battery terminals and to clean them out when dealing with old cameras. I got a wet-wipe and jammed it into the battery compartment with a screwdriver and twisted it around until I could see the corrosion fading and the shiny silver prongs glistening like a nickel in the sun (I just learned that you should use vinegar for this trick). Again, I know nothing about working on cameras and I’m about as delicate in the process as a drunk person running through a rose garden. However, it worked. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I could be a rocket engineer after this feat or surely map out the quantum physics that would lead us as a society into a carbon-neutural global travel initiative. I loaded in a roll of expired Fuji™ Superia Xtra 400 from 2001 that I found at a Goodwill and figured I would take her for a spin.
As you can see from the photos above, the camera actually performed way better than expected. Granted, it’s very temperamental and the auto focus is ‘on the spectrum’ and there was a few times that I had to turn it off and on again to get the power jump-started but for a camera that’s around forty years old, I would say it was worth every cent of the $18 price tag. It has a very charming disposable camera vibe that a lot of people really like but encapsulated in a fun, easy to use, hefty body. My biggest issues with it was the focusing and the flash recycling time as I like to shoot close and fast. After getting the scans back from Dark Room Film Lab I realized that a lot of frames were definitely outside of its focusing range.
Would I recommend you buying one? That depends on what type of look you’re trying to obtain in your photos. If you want snapshot images that aren’t super sharp and are somewhat flat but still embody vintage looking fashion and party photos, then yes this is your shooter for sure. If you can find one in working condition for under $20, I say grab it because I’ve read stories of people picking these up at thrift stores for $5 and selling them for over $100 on eBay. I’ll break down my pros and cons below.
- Motorized film advance
- Takes AA batteries
- Decent lens
- Captures vibey vintage style photos
- Manual ISO (you can push the film)
- Decent flash
- Very easy to use
- Great beginner camera
- Great disposable upgrade
- View finder takes getting used to
- Not the most comfortable in hand
- Focusing range takes getting used to
- Like your favorite uncle, it’s old and very temperamental
- The clamshell and ergonomics makes it easy to get your fingers in the frame (last photo)
- Flash recycling time is a bit slow (but so will mine be when I’m over forty)
- Doesn’t auto rewind after the last frame (this technology came later)
So there you have it, the first round of First Roll™ and there’s tons more coming. As most of you can tell from my Instagram stories and blog posts lately, I’ve been on a buying frenzy in search of my own personal favorite point and shoot that isn’t in the cool kids, cult classic, club.
Thank you @_Jtchapps for letting me test this out on you.
You know when you decide to surf the net first thing in the morning while listening to old Italian music from the 1960’s and sipping espresso when you suddenly get taken down a visual rabbit hole that hopscotches from one URL to another until finally you strike creative inspiration? No? It must just be me then. That’s what happened today when I started out at my favorite fashion website which then took me to an article on Aaron Rose which then took me to his website where that door opened up to a short documentary on Hamburger Eyes™ that he directed. I’ve know of Aaron Rose for years. In fact, he was one of the first names I remember discovering when I was heavily influenced by the likes of Supreme™ and Terry Richardson when I first started doing photography. AR owned the Alleged Gallery in New York when the city was dirty and the candid snapshots of that era were equally as gritty. For someone like me who lived in the suburbs of Thousand Oaks CA, it seemed like the perfect dreamworld. I would fantasize about the day that I could be wild and free and document my debauchery in a way that resonated with me and where I was at in that stage of my life. Graffiti, skateboarding, drugs, music, sex and art in all types of shapes and mediums, what more could an isolated kid ask for?
It was interesting to stumble upon this documentary today because I’ve heard of Hamburger Eyes™ in the past but never really paid much attention to it other than knowing it was photography based. Personally I thought it was a one photographer and left it at that. After watching this short I realized that its so much more special than one person, it’s a collective of people who love photography and documenting life and make it a point to produce something tangible, zines. I used to Xerox my own zines on a old photocopier when I was an office manager. I would wait until everyone was gone and work all night trying to layout my images and then stapled the bundled stacks of warm black and white paper together and gave them away to anyone that would take one. Zines used to be huge and I think for any individual that is prone to capturing life through a lens and has any sort of DIY attribute sewn into their DNA, a zine is just something that you do. You want to do it, you need to do it, and its something that’s compelled from passion. It’s the best way to publish your own work in a manner that isn’t in a cloud but can be held in a hand, flipped through, browsed, ripped and taped onto a wall. A zine is the archetype for what will later be your Magna Carta. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget about my roots and how much more fun things where when I did it by hand. In todays age we all just upload tons of images but these virtual indexes have no life, no soul. They’re merely renderings transmitted for a split second and then lost forever in the never-ending scroll. If Instagram was to crash today, or even worse, if the world was to crash tomorrow, what significance of your creative pursuits would be left behind for the next civilization to discover? Heavy, I know, but sometimes we are so busy chasing the instant gratification that we forget why we even started creating in the first place.
Watch the documentary, warm up your Xerox machine or printer, put a new blade in your Xacto knife, load a fresh cartridge of staples and get to work.
It’s wild how fast my calendar is filling up (makes me wonder if we’re still in a pandemic) but I can’t complain because it feels good to get the creative gears greased and getting back to my regular hectic work schedule. Feel free to email me if you would like to book me to shoot a project or a one-on-one sitting with me. Rates and locations are given upon agreed booking.
I don’t know if it’s a product of my OCD or the fact that I can’t operate amongst clutter but I was inclined to keep the case motif going with this travel size compact point and shoot storage. It was extremely hard to not buy a bigger case to house all of my compacts but that would just be absurd so I limited myself to a three camera capacity. For the first round I figured I would pack the Monami, Espio 80 and the 110 Zoom, all of which I just got and am extremely excited to take for a spin.
I was cleaning out a cabinet this morning and found these photos of Jana hanging out at my apartment when I lived on Norton Avenue in West Hollywood. It was really weird because the polaroids instantly transported me back to that exact moment and I remembered how we were shooting some images for a Coca-Cola™ collaboration. After we got the shot, she put on her sweater and we started getting into a deep dialogue about life. As we were talking, she randomly put on a pair of my shoes that were sitting by the chair. I don’t know why she put them on but I thought there was something very compelling about it and it made me grab my camera.
I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I have never used a light meter in my decade long photographic journey. Over the years I sort of figured out how to eyeball the atmosphere and dial in the settings or I simply used my go-to flash snapshot aesthetic to get the shot. Lately I’ve really been trying to elevate my style, especially when it comes to film, so I figured it was time to invest in a light meter. I’ve always wanted the Sekonic™ L-358 because I thought it looked cool and it has a radio transmitter add-on option that allows you to fire your strobes to get a reading. Now, I’m not a tech guy in the slightest and was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to turn it on, let alone make it magically give me the missing number to my exposure triangle. Upon receiving it in the mail yesterday, I couldn’t believe how easy this thing was to use. I honestly had it spitting out numbers in the first ten minutes like I was a trained interrogation specialist. Instructions you say? For peasants. I never even opened up the booklet. As you can see from the photos above, it allows you to dial in the correct exposure then you can take your own creative liberties from there. It’s a lot better than guessing a starting point or even worse, trying to get the right exposure from your DSLR screen, which is almost never accurate.
Would I recommend getting a meter? From where I am now and for what I’m trying to achieve, I would say yes. Especially if you’re investing a lot of your time and money in film. I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute necessity when it comes to digital, especially if you dig the snapshot vibe and are rarely using strobes. Also, from what I gather, I would only buy a Sekonic™ meter but that doesn’t mean you have to buy the top of the line unit. I got mine brand new with the radio transmitter for $250 shipped. I’ve seen some other cool ones like the Sekinic™ L-308x for less and is pretty much the standard for many notable film photographers. Then there’s some fully digital units that look like an iPhone 40 that range well into the over $600 area, which to me, has major “tiny weener” vibes written all over it. Just get one that’s in your budget because ultimately they all do the same thing.
I’ve been in a battle within myself lately questioning if I have a problem because it seems like every day a new camera is being delivered. Some were purchased as back-ups due to the thirty plus years of old technology and I’m afraid I won’t be able to find a dependable version later on if one was to finally enter the golden gates of shutter-bug heaven. I rationalize my inner voice by telling myself this and that it’s just part of the sickness that most of us photo-makers get infected with. We buy tons of old film cameras to see which one will remedy our need to achieve our personal aesthetic. Which camera feels best in our hands, which is fun to shoot with, which one will convey our message and also which one simply looks cool and entices us to shoot more. All I know is that I’ve been having a lot of fun hoarding over the last few weeks and adding cool little chunks of industrial design history to my arsenal. I can’t wait to show you guys what’s on the way from Japan and Germany. Update coming soon.
I’m going to vent to you candidly for a moment like we’re a couple of old friends, because we are. I’ve battled with weight my entire life and as most of you know, in November 2020 I finally hit my goal weight of 145lbs. It was by far the hardest and longest thing I’ve ever done as I went through a two year long mental and physical transformation in order to achieve my goal. I gave up a lot to get what I wanted and when I finally got it, well, let’s just say I figured I could hit cruise control from there on out. Also, getting into a very serious relationship didn’t help, and by very serious, I’m talking about our late night snacking and eating whatever vegan sweats we desired. I felt my need for running begin to fade. My favorite physical outlet began to play in the background as the volume on life was turning up. Work, romance, day-to-day small fires and tackling a full plate (pun intended) got the best of me. Change was once again formulating and the optics were resembling a familiar reflection that I really dislike. In the midst of the happiest I have ever been, I felt my body returning to its prior state as the dial on the scale was gaining momentum. After a long internal talk with myself and an open dialogue with the girlfriend, we made the decision to fully take back control and to put our own wellbeing at the forefront. We drastically changed our diet two weeks ago and I began to once again beat up the pavement. Running, sweating… experiencing freedom. It’s no longer an option but an absolute vital part of the fabric that makes my world a happy one, a stable one, a creative one. I’m feeling strong again, optimistic, happy, vibrant. If any of you are experiencing complacency, creative block, depression or simply just not firing on all cylinders, I highly encourage you to move your body. Unplug and go on walks. Be in nature and take a moment to reflect. It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as there’s some sweat trickling out of your pores. We weren’t built to be stagnant.